After winning back-to-back Central New England Prep Championships in 2012 and 2013 but falling short of the title last season, Andover Baseball is ready for redemption. The team is striving to rediscover its winning ways this spring after a successful preseason trip to Fort Pierce, Florida over spring break.
Having graduated seven seniors last year, Andover will look to its newcomers this season for more depth in their game. Co-Captains John Festa ’15, Matt Hosman ’15, Tim Salvadore ’15, and Thomas Lane ’15 will fill the shoes left by last year’s leaders Mark Sullivan ’14 and Chris Hohlstein ’14.
“The team’s goals are to do all of the little things right to make the big picture come together. We want to win, but in order to do that we all need to contribute and do our jobs,” said Festa.
Festa led the team in the 2014 season with 20 hits and logged a team-best .417 on-base percentage, while Lane finished last year with a 1.54 Earned Run Average on the mound.
Andover will rely on its pitching staff consisting of Hosman, Salvadore, Lane, and Post-Graduate Jake Nelson ’15 in order to be successful. Nelson and Salvadore were named 12th and 20th, respectively, in New England Baseball Journal’s list of top 20 MLB prospects in the region.
“Right now our pitching staff is our team’s strength,” said utility player and returner Payton Jancsy ’16. “Our rotation is one of the best in the league.”
The team will need to work on matching its efficiency on the mound with its production at the plate.
Jancsy added, “Our goal is to win a championship—plain and simple. I think we can improve at the plate, but I’m not worried because hitting will come with playing more games and seeing more pitches.”
Key batters on the team include Jancsy and catcher John Simourian ’16. Jancsy hit .306 and stole a team-high nine bases last year, while Simourian led the team with a .378 batting average.
In Florida, Andover showcased its teamwork in exhibition games against Pro Teach Baseball Academy, Dexter, Berkshire, Avon, Apollo Ridge High School, and Episcopal.
“Our greatest challenge was the fact that we did not practice at all as a team prior to departing for Florida, so pretty much our first time on the field as a team was our first game in Florida,” said Head Coach Kevin Graber.
Stats and scores were not kept for these games since they were solely for practice.
Graber explained, “Teams substituted freely, batted more than the requisite nine hitters, and even, at times, ended innings before three outs were recorded in order to preserve pitchers’ pitch counts.”
The game against Avon, however, followed regulation rules and ended 8-7 in Andover’s favor. The team scored two runs in the bottom of the 7th inning for a walk-off win, and pitchers Lane, Salvadore, and Nelson combined for the win.
Andover’s first game of the season is on Saturday against St. John’s Prep.